Florida Bounces Back With Win Over Alabama

Game wrap up, notes, quotes and box score...

Gainesville, FL - Senior forward Matt Bonner scored a team high 21 points and freshman guard Anthony Roberson poured in 16, including four-of-six from three point range, while Alabama struggled to find its shooting as the top-ranked Gators defeated the Crimson Tide (No. 22/20), 75-56, Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 12,101 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. With the win, the Gators reeled off their 16th consecutive home victory to improve to 19-3 overall and 8-1 in SEC play. Alabama, which suffered its seventh loss in the last eight meetings with UF, fell to 13-7 on the year and 3-6 in league play.

"I think any time you come off a game like we had against Kentucky from a coaching standpoint you are always concerned about the mental makeup of your team and how they will respond to something like that," said UF head coach Billy Donovan. "They seemed to move past what happened in Lexington. I thought this afternoon our guys just played really hard. The competed and played very unselfishly. I think it was just one of those games where Alabama did not shoot the ball particularly well. They had some struggles knocking down their shots. "

After Alabama controlled the tip, freshman Matt Walsh came up with a steal and pushed the ball up the court to senior Justin Hamilton whose slam put UF up 2-0, and the Gators never looked back. During the first eight minutes of the game, UF connected on eight of its first twelve shots from the floor, while Alabama missed 13 of its first 14 shots allowing Florida to open up a 16-3 lead.

The Crimson Tide hit five of its next ten shots during a span in which the Gators went 2-of-9 to trim the lead to 23-20 when Antoine Pettway nailed a three with 5:43 remaining before the break. The three would be just one of two Alabama made during the game as they finished just 2-of-18 from behind the three-point arc (.111), marking the lowest effort by a UF opponent this year.

During the last five minutes of the half, Florida responded with a trio of three-pointers of its own, two of which came from Roberson who led a 15-4 run to open the lead to 38-24 at the break.

Bonner, who had not scored more than 13 points in each of the last four games, nailed the first of three UF shots from behind the three-point arc during the early going of the second half to put the game out of reach. The lead was never in doubt with the Tide never coming closer than a dozen.

Bonner finished the game 8-of-14 from the field, while Roberson went 6-of-9 and matched Hamilton with five assists each as the Gators spread the ball well assisting on 19 of 26 field goals. David Lee chipped in 12 and was the only other Gator in double figures. He and Walsh led Florida in free throws with four each keeping UF perfect at the line where the team finished 14-of-14 marking just the second time in the Billy Donovan era the Gators have done so (South Carolina, Jan. 15, 1997, 17-of-17).

Alabama got 15 points from Erwin Dudley and 13 from freshman Kennedy Winston and finished the game shooting a .328 (19-of-58), which was a season-low for a Florida opponent.

Florida will be back in action on Wednesday, Feb. 12 as it hosts Ole Miss. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

GAME NOTES

Florida held Alabama to .328 percent (19-of-58) in terms of field goal shooting marking the lowest effort by any UF opponent this season.

Alabama opened the game 0-of-6 before Mo Williams hit the first shot for the Tide. Alabama managed one field goal in its first eleven possessions of the game. In addition, Alabama started the game 1-of-14 from the field and followed that up by hitting five of its next ten to trim the lead to 21-13.

UF improved to 43-21 in the head coach Billy Donovan era following a loss.

UF opened the first eight minutes of the game hitting eight of its first 12 shots.

From the twelve-minute mark to six minutes remaining before the half, the Gators went 2-of-9 from the field aiding Alabama's effort in trimming the lead to 23-20.

From that point, UF went on a 15-4 run to end the half and open the lead to 38- 24.

Florida finished the game with seven blocked shots matching its second-highest total of the season. Earlier this year, the Gators had 14 against Eastern Illinois (11/21/02).

Florida showed its ability to spread the ball around the floor as 19 of 26 field goals had assists.

Florida did not attempt a free throw until the 3:14 mark in the first half when David Lee nailed a pair. By that point in the game, Alabama had hit three of six.

For the second time in the Billy Donovan era and for the first time this season,

UF was perfect from the free throw line. The Gators completed the game hitting 14-of-14. The last time the Gators did not miss a free throw was on January 15, 1997 against South Carolina. In that contest, the Gators went 17-of-17.

Alabama was held to 1-of-9 from behind the three-point arc in the first half marking the lowest performance by a SEC opponent. UF has held three others this season to just one or less in the first half this season. Both Coastal Carolina and South Florida managed one, while Kansas went 0-of-6 in the opening period in UF's second game of the Preseason NIT.

Alabama finished managed just 2-of-18 (.111) on three pointers for the game marking the lowest effort by a UF opponent this season..Florida's defeat of Alabama marked the 16 th consecutive home victory for the Gators, which marks the third longest streak in school history and the longest streak in the Billy Donovan era.

Florida has won a dozen straight games against SEC West opponents at home and has defeated Alabama in seven of the last eight meetings.

QUOTES

HEAD COACH BILLY DONOVAN

On the coming back after the loss:

"I think any time you come off a game like we had against Kentucky, from a coaching standpoint, you are always concerned about the mental makeup of your team and how they respond from something like that. I really felt like when we practiced on Thursday that these guys came back really hard. Yesterday we had a really good practice. Their attitude was good. They seemed to move past what happened in Lexington. I think they learned from it. We got better. I think the intensity level in practice was picked up. I think these guys were anxious to get back out on the floor to play again."

On the game:

"I thought this afternoon our guys just played really hard. They competed and played very unselfishly. I think it was just one of those games where Alabama did not shoot the ball particularly well. They had some struggles there knocking down shots. We just tried to mix and play some man and some zone."

On outstanding play:

"I thought Matt Bonner had struggled a little bit scoring in the last three games. He stepped up and played exceptionally well. I thought [Anthony Roberson] played well tonight with the way that he shot the basketball. I thought Matt Walsh played within that frame work of what we wanted to do offensively. From my standpoint, the mental challenge was the hard part of coming off Kentucky. I was very proud of the way they came out and competed against a team like Alabama who is very gifted and talented."

Senior forward Matt Bonner:

On the team's psyche…

"As far as psyche goes I think Coach Donovan does a great job keeping us focused and on even keel. In this league you can't concentrate on the past or get down because you will lose another game and another game. Coach Donovan did a great job leading up to this game, getting us focused and mentally prepared. It is just a matter of going out there and executing what we have been practicing. We were ready to come out today and play, just play."

"The big thing after Kentucky was mental preparation and us not listening to what everyone was saying. Coach Donovan took care of that right off of the bat. He told us 'the game was over and we couldn't get it back.' Whether you lose by two or 30 it's still a loss, it's just one game. Our focus today was to come back and beat Alabama."

Freshman guard Anthony Roberson:

On adversity…

"Like Coach Donovan said he prepared us for the next game. Coach helps Matt [Walsh] and I each step of the way. Coming in as freshman there are a lot of things that we haven't experienced and there is a lot of stuff that we are going to go through that we don't know about. Coach puts us in the best situation possible for the team and situations we can be successful in on and off the court. No matter what we are going through, Coach is willing to put us in situations where we can succeed and win."

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried

On his team's performance:

Regardless of the scoreboard, I'm proud of my team. We find ourselves in a spot where we're just struggling to get the ball to go through the rim. In the first half, we turned the ball over three times, we got 20 shots in the paint and we make about three of them. They're good shots in the paint and around the basket and I'll take that from our guys."."Obviously, at some point, we've got to step up and make some. We've just found ourselves in a period where we're in a funk and you can't get out and there's not a lot of room for error. I'm going to take our effort. We just need to keep playing like we're playing and make some shots. We've got a seven-game season left."

On Florida:

"Obviously, Florida's very good and I'm sure coming off of the game at Kentucky they would have a little bounce in their step, and they should. They have good skill players and made some good, tough shots especially in the first half."

On Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh:

"I though in the first half that kid [Anthony] Roberson put a couple of daggers in our heart--tough shots. Really, in college basketball they're shots that not a lot of players are making that shot. Coming off of ball screens, three steps behind the three-point line, on the go and drilling the shots on you, that's not a shot that you see many people making."

Forward Kennedy Winston

On the game:

"They're a good team. We had some easy layups early in the game, and we just didn't make them. We executed our offense, but we didn't make the shots. That was a good effort. We know that we're going to make those shots down the stretch.

On his game:

"I knew that my team was going to need me today, and I just stepped up my game. I had a chance, and I know that I can play. I came out with a lot of energy."

Forward Erwin Dudley

On the game:

"We played hard, and they made some big shots. We played really aggressive and didn't come out tentatively. We played like we're supposed to play. We started off slow, they were up 14-3 at one time and we came back and cut it to 23-20 and they hit a 3-pointer and put them up more. They're a good team."

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